The paper examines public life within Bangkok's urban spaces on the premise that user needs and satisfaction should play an integral component in the design of these spaces. An ecology-culture-behaviour paradigm is introduced to appropriately rationalise the relationship between urban design, ecology and sociology. Bangkok, a canal- and river-based port city, echoes the urban morphological processes of early Southeast Asian coastal settlements, but differs in its social and physical construct because of its lack of exposure to colonial dominance. Only in the latter part of the 19th century, when Western influence was introduced and became stronger, a change in its physical form was manifest, but the city still retained the social construct within its urban spaces and activity nodes (i.e. informal, commercial and religious spaces). Bangkok street users and their corresponding activities within the contemporary urban street space are also examined through field observation and survey to paint an overall picture of the behaviour and attitudes of the street users. The Bangkok experience presents a case of a dynamic city with competition between its traditions and the Western contemporary influences on its urban spaces. Finally, the paper reiterates the significant need to reconsider the intrinsic relationship between ecology, culture and behaviour to better understand the life between structures to create an urban space that satisfies its end users.